Roller Coaster to Rathlin Island (9/7/2012)

We drove up the Causeway Coastal Route to Ballycastle and caught the Rathlin Island Ferry. This is a mid sized catamaran that makes regular runs to the island, the only inhabited island in NI, multiple times daily. Ballycastle, by the way, is a pretty little harbor town with a big public beach, and a number of shops.  Its name literally means “castle town” as there are / were three castles in the immediate area.

The ferry ride was 25 minutes of blasting through and across waves in 4-8 foot swells.  Good news is we were outside so it was a fun ride. At least the wind was not blowing like it did yesterday.

Our ride for the day!

The island itself has about 100 permanent residents excluding the cows. Fishing, cattle farming, and tourism are the only industries. There is a puffin habitat there we did not see. Steve and I hiked up to the East Lighthouse. It was the original lighthouse on the island (there are three). From that point you can look out and see Scotland. The area around the lighthouse reminded me of Scotland – loads of heather and blooming thistle.

At the East Lighthouse, the first commercial Marconi transmission was made by the great man himself for Lloyd’s of London to confirm shipping traffic passing the island. Lloyd’s always wanted to know where their insured vessels were but getting info back to them timely was an issue especially from outlying areas like this. This use of technology was the perfect solution.

We hiked back down and walked down the waterfront to the church (there are supposedly two on the island). St. Thomas Church (Church of Ireland) has been located in that spot for several hundred years. The oldest graves in the cemetery date back to the mid 1600s. There is evidence of a religious community that goes back to the time of the Vikings in the 1000-1200’s. 

We got lunch at the Harbor Cafe (more of our eat local plan) and the wandered through the Visitor Centre / museum before taking the ferry back to Ballycastle.

Harbor Cafe

After a stop at the grocer, we headed back toward the Causeway and took a turn off to Kenbane Head (I should note I have seen Kenbane spelled Kenbaan also). Talk about narrow roads and this one is an active farm road! Regardless, we found the parking lot and headed toward the castle ruin. There are a couple of different notes on who built this and of course the McDonnells figure in the history. It is in such an obscure location that the path down might have been ok for a man on horseback but not by cart or carriage! 

The important personal aspect of this castle is that Daniel McHenry was born here in 1590. That is as far back as reliable McHenry family research goes.  I have read a couple of articles that proposes that Daniel was the son of Henry VIII’s illegitimate son Sir John Perrot. His mother was an O’Cain (various spellings of this also). I will have to check with the family experts on that note when I return. While I hate to admit it, though, that might explain some of the McHenry temperament!

The main thing I took away from Rathlin Island was how at peace the place was. You could actually just listen and hear no industrial noise around you once up from the town. And I could not help but think, not for the first time, of David in the Psalms. “He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restored my soul.”

Still Choosing Joy!